Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Friday, May 13, 2022
Alas! The scenery is becoming more Denvy-like, or at least the scenery is the type with which Denvy really feels comfortable. There are vast open spaces, mountains that dominate the horizon with white, and black, and blue, brown and green, and rivers that run clear and wide, streams that bounce down the mountains deep in narrow gouges, clouds that sparkling white among the blue and others that loom dark with rain, lakes that reflect the vanishing horizon or ripple white with random wind tossed waves, and broad farmed valleys with mountains on each side.
I don’t know where or when the seed for that attraction happened, I just know it’s in my being.
And there’s lots of this scenery, which you know if you’ve ever crossed Montana from side to side. We entered Montana from the south near Billings and overnighted in Bozeman. Apparently WalMart in Bozeman is popular, needed and well used. It had it’s own section for campers. There were many RV’s in the apparent designated corner.
Out of Bozeman we drove to the south edge of Whitefish or the north edge of Kalispell (your choice) to visit nephew Rory Cameron and his wife Tricia. They moved to this acreage from southern California several years ago. She does legal work from her home computer and he expresses this love of the outdoors, nature and animals with his horses, his manicured garden and construction projects. One son graduated from high school last year and the other will graduate in June. Both were off doing their thing so we didn't see them.
After a brief 15-minute drive south, still between Whitefish and Kalispell, we supped a stew and sourdough bread with great-nephew Peter (son of Bill and Cherie), his wife Sarah (also the cook) and their two elementary school daughters. I had a great deal of fun with the girls as they were eager to share their newfound activity of crocheting. They had learned to chain and so they were creating long chains. Someday they will learn from their mother how to crochet and double crochet and turn and increase and maybe even a magic circle. I hope to follow their progress. Oh, by the way, this is a family of serious hikers which works well with Glacier National Park and many mountain trails just minutes away.
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
We're now a full eight weeks into this experiment, this trek, this adventure, this road trip. As expected we're starting to feel the urge to get back to the home pastures. But there's more to do and we will do it before the lawn gets mowed at home.
This may be a bit out of chronological order but here is the latest. It’s a long haul between the last visit and the next so we split this drive into two shorter jaunts allowing a bit of time for napping, checking emails, getting some paperwork done and writing two entries into the blog.
Our hope Monday morning as we left Rapid City was to see the Custer State Park bison. We swooped south, followed the “backest” of back road and only saw one by the road and four or five up a ravine in the distance. We’ll settle for a prairie dog town, a scattering of deer, some prone horned antelope, a singleton wild turkey and lots of rocks that camouflaged as wannabe wildlife. Despite the lack of bison the drive was so much like home.
Late midday we arrived at the home of a dear high school friend of mine, Tim, and his sweet wife, Ree. Even though we’ve driven by Belle Fourche a time or two before, times that were rushed for one reason or another, this was the first visit in this home after about 50 years since we saw them in the earlier home in Hebron. Ree is a music major and has three keyboard instruments – an upright piano, a harpsichord, and a “new one on me,” a butterfly grand. It’s smaller than a baby grand; it’s symmetric with two covers that open for louder sounds on both sides making it look like a butterfly. Who would have known?
I needed to call ahead to another classmate (Melodie) adjusting the next day’s schedule who was a good friend of Tim’s but had not seen or heard from Tim since graduation. I put the phone on the table with the speaker on and told them who was on the phone. What a delight it was to hear them reconnect after 60 years. This will be a highlight in this trip.
We drove three hours, one hour from Melodie and Al’s home, and found a parking spot with our favorite truckers and fellow RVers in a WalMart lot in Sheridan, Wyoming. Melodie was a classmate in high school. I remember Tim’s father taking him, myself and Melodie to see a movie in the neighboring town when we were in high school. It was El Cid. Melodie went on to college and married Al whom she met there. She continues to teach as a substitute while Al who operates a radio station has recently purchased an old vacated Ben Franklin store which they are remodeling to house a half dozen boutiques. Their dream is to revitalize the old downtown of Hardin, Montana.
We swung back a few miles from Hardin to tour the Little Big Horn Battlefield, a National Park. We love our old-person free National Park passes! This park was very nicely laid out and displayed with headstones scattered throughout the hillsides where soldiers and warriors died. It was a major clash of cultures and so many young men on both sides died.
Now we are soaking in the sun after several more hours of driving, parked in our favorite chain of camp sites – WalMart.
Today, among other things, was a day of clouds. The morning was routine, overcast and blah. Midday was sunny and quite pleasant. We spent early afternoon with friends and as we were about to leave we could hear heavy rain which included a few moments of hail.
And then it started.
As we drove west out of South Dakota, the clouds to the north were dark as night. To the southwest big fluffy white ones were set off by a dark backdrop of threatening clouds. We were headed northwest and it looked bright.
The drive was some two hundred miles and the conditions changed by the moment. The road tended to the west and the southwest clouds slipped behind us. Then to the northwest and the west the skies darkened as the northern ones had a dash of white amid the appearance of rain; it was snow. Minutes became hours and the road turned wet but our windshield remained dry. Over the next ridge the edges of the road were white; possibly hail or snow. Now the threatening clouds cautiously slipped behind us while others grew in the north, then the south, and even in the west. Whenever we drove directly toward clouds, the route changed and we skirted between the showers. Still no need for wipers. However, Gail was constantly taking pictures as the clouds morphed in color, shape, tone, height, and threatening appearance. It rained the entire evening and we enjoyed the displays without hardly a drip on the windows.
Sunday started with a quick breakfast in a café with my lifelong friend John. Our parents were friends and we were born months apart so we probably played with each other in our cribs. We attended six years of grade school together and after six years apart as his father followed his teaching career we landed in the same college. While his career followed time in Viet Nam and teaching, he now gathers plant and soil samples for a ranching experiment for NDSU; going strong at 77 he is.
After a four-hour drive from Dickinson along the North/South Dakota border we spent a couple hours on the ranch/farm of the Scarboroughs. Mrs. Pam Scarborough was my 51-year old niece who died just three months ago. This day was pleasant allowing us an opportunity to chat outside on the deck while throwing the ball for our dogs Their two-year old golden lab likes to fetch as much as Charlie. Charlie also enjoyed the freedom of the open fields, the cattle and a peer who could match his athletic abilities. Pam’s sister Sharla came by for Mother’s Day along with three of her five children, so there were a total of six great nephews and nieces roaming the yard and sharing stories about school and stuff.
After another three-hour drive we shared our evening meal with Samantha, an adopted daughter of Gail’s brother Stuart. Sam is a traveling nurse and is just about to complete her contract in Rapid City. She shared many stories about her nursing here and there but also threw in a few about raising a post-secondary school son back in Florida. It sometimes seems like a miracle that we get through raising our families.
Overnight was in another WalMart in Rapid City.
Sunday, May 8, 2022
While there have been numerous surprises or unexpected events on this journey, last evening was notable. We expected to park in some vacant lot in Hebron last night, however, we received an unexpected phone call inviting us to stay in this lady’s mother’s yard, a farm yard. The lady, Kerry, was a student when I worked at the University of Jamestown, actually she worked for me, and we discovered not only that we came from the same home town but that we were remotely related. Now she’s the town banker.
Her mother, Pam, was a classmate in Hebron but about six years younger than I. After we identified ourselves and plugged in the covered wagon, they asked if we wanted to see her quilting. This was unbelievable. Her entire basement was filled with shelves of fabrics, and boxes of fabrics, and a couple sewing machines. Her main floor had quilts of all sizes hanging and lying around; the patterns and colors were quite varied. Apparently she has done shows and exhibits with as many as a hundred quilts. The tour was like going through a museum. (We forgot to take pictures.)
This morning we met for brunch with some high school classmates who lived in the area (Jane, Joyce, Jim, Darlys and Ken). I’ve been to school reunions before but like so many times during this trek, the conversations became quite detailed and reached into the depths of our lives. There were stories of being discipled in school, working the first cafeteria, after school activities; stories of first jobs and starting families as well as those about classmates who are no longer with us. We reviewed old pictures and discussed where we sat in the classroom. Some of us even remembered that we sat alphabetically our senior year.
Finally we took a picture with the six of us who came together and quickly reminisced the classmates who weren’t with us, about 11 out of 30. Our hugs had the underlining theme that this may be the last time we share stories and hugs. The official 60th class reunion is this summer but this was a gift from these five to meet us during our time passing through. This trip is so important to all of us.
Friday, May 6, 2022
Polly retold her story about her uncle and newlywed bride who were mauled by a bear when they were hiking in Alaska. Gail related again her story of picking up a couple in Alaska who were mauled by a bear and the man was too tall (long) to fit in the ambulance. We first shared these stories 26 years ago while Polly and I worked for Jamestown College, now the University of Jamestown, as we sat at a Homecoming banquet. The small world connection was that these were the same persons. Polly was director of development those years ago; today she is the university president.
We talked candidly as friends do and she shared that the worst day of life was when she had to decide what to do regarding COVID. She said she knew that if she closed the college staff and facility would have to be laid off. She couldn’t bear that thought and chose to rearrange the college and keep it going. She cited only one case of serious illness. She truly loves her students, faculty and staff.
We had been invited by the assistant development director (she has other titles also) to breakfast that morning at the college cafeteria. In line waiting for an omelet we met a coworker (coach) from those 26-plus years ago. We chatted, exchanged stories and went our ways.
We were a bit early for our meeting with our granddaughter Payton so we stopped at the RV shop to ask a question which they couldn’t resolve. They discovered that the mystery motor was a fan under Gail’s chair but couldn’t find a way to turn it off. I checked the iPad manual and learned there’s a switch which was accidentally bumped on. We switched it off and the purring and draining of the battery quit.
We finished using up the extra hour at my brother George’s where we would spend the night.
We met Payton at the Cracker Barrel where we got an earful from a young lady trying to make her way in life. She surprised us with the news that she was going to buy a one-person nutritional drink shop in downtown Mandan. It’s called Impact Nutrition. We stopped by the next evening, took some pictures and recognized that it was a very neat clean establishment. We wish her well.
After an evening with George and Karen, and a warm overnight in the covered wagon, we shared breakfast with Payton’s sister Deona, whose birthday is today (May 6). We had the same young waitress as the day before and enjoyed some bantering back and forth including the acquired taste for grits which Deona had never tasted. It was unanimous that none of us had acquired the taste for grits. Deona has a new puppy, still works for Starbucks and is looking for an opportunity to move on to another location, possibly with her boyfriend to Virginia. Grandma and grandpa are a bit cautious about this decision, but it’s not ours to make.
The afternoon was spent with a Hebron graduate who is a distant relative and who manages the Hebron Historical Society site on Facebook. It was an informative conversation getting both information about the big picture of the family and specific details. The evening was spent sharing a meal at the Pizza Ranch with George’s son Glendon and family.